Fortunately I managed to negotiate my way through Tottenham as I headed out to the M11 and East Anglia, before getting caught up in the traffic leaving White Hart Lane after Saturday’s early kick-off. Little did I realize that this (and the fact that Spurs lost) was to be the only result of the day!
If I’m honest, I was tempted to stop at home, put my feet up and watch both live matches on the box, rather than endure a five-hour round trip drive to Norwich on my tod. But after being starved of proper footie for a fortnight, there was no way I was going AWOL from Carrow Road. I even considered the possibility of travelling up there on the train, but frankly, as much as I adore Ian Dury, the prospect of bumping into Billericay Dicky on a replacement bus service on this route wasn’t sufficient an attraction.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the International game, I found myself tuning into the Faroe Isles v Ireland on my laptop in midweek, following the washout in Warsaw and then dashing back from work the following afternoon, in time to watch the rearranged England game. But for a lover of the unpredictable cut & thrust of Premiership footie, a bland diet of World Cup qualifiers is about as satisfying as methadone is to a heroin addict and sadly no less soporific.
Thus by the time Saturday came, I was “jonesing” for my fix of the real McCoy and after the tease of listening on the radio to an enthralling second half between Spurs and Chelsea and the disappointing climax at West Brom, as 10-man City nicked all three points at the death, it was devastatingly depressing to watch the Gunners fail so miserably to deliver the goods.
Doubtless related to their rural setting, amongst the agricultural flatlands of East Anglia, compared to the tension of all those uptight urban grounds, Carrow Road has got to rank as one of the friendliest, least intimidating awaydays on the fixture list. As a result it was hard to begrudge the yokels their hard-earned victory over the Arsenal’s lackadaisical city slickers.
Right from the opening minutes of this match it was obvious that the home side were the hungrier of the two outfits, whereas by contrast we were lamentably complacent and leaden-footed. Mannone might be culpable for the Canaries goal, but when a player as cumbersome as Grant Holt is first into the six-yard box to stab home the rebound, that just about sums it up for me.
In truth I’ve not heard Wenger bleating (on this occasion) about his squad being pooped after their inter-continental obligations, but the measure of a team is their ability to grind out a result when not at their best and sadly on Saturday the Gunners never even came close to nicking a goal, never mind the points.
Instead of re-energizing his squad after an International break, I often get the impression that Arsène is guilty of setting the wrong tone, by pandering to their lethargy and sending his team out, subconsciously aware of the fact that they already have an excuse for being below par. So it’s no real shock when we perennially live up to this lack of expectation.
Such was our frustration on the terraces, that after Gervinho sliced a rare effort wide, many around me turned to applaud in acquiescance, as the home fans responded, with the now customary “Robin Van Persie, he would’ve scored that”! Seeing Jack Wilshere in the pre-match warm-up, positively bristling to be back involved, it was agonizing watching us dawdle in possession, without a single player in red & white willing to take responsibility to carve out an opening; our anguish only compounded by the knowledge that for all the enthusiasm and commitment of Chris Houghton’s journeymen outfit, the Canaries will struggle to contain any of our competitors.
Sadly the Ox’s effort to inject a little gusto proved all too short-lived, as Alex came off the worst from his first effort to make an impact, after colliding with Bassong. Sent on in his stead, to my mind, the wantaway Arshavin was never going to be hell-bent on nicking a point, when the diminutive Ruski is likely to have departed long before we get to prize-giving time in May. Reluctant to risk Wishere, Arsène’s final throw of the die was a debut for Serge Gnabry, where the teenage German at least seemed to demonstrate the sort of zeal and desire that had been so sorely lacking from his team mates, with in an 8-minute cameo of the sort of impressive endeavours we’ve witnessed in Gnabry’s U21 outings.
Yet the Gunners didn’t do nearly enough to rain on the Canaries’ parade and I despair at our failure to have long since learned quite how unforgiving the Premiership is of such a bad day at the office. We’ll get battered by the Bundesliga outfit should we produce a similarly lackluster display on Wednesday, so never mind the racism, here’s hoping Arsène has kicked our complacency into touch before then.
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com